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Locating Practices – Locator Error Dominates

DIRT collects information on eleven individual locating root causes. However, several locating root causes appear[1] in two situations: (1) not marked at all, and (2) marked but inaccurate. For example, submitters can select facility not marked due to inaccurate maps/records or facility marked inaccurately due to inaccurate maps/records. For the following analysis, we have combined the not-marked and marked-inaccurately totals. This provides a better sense of what the leading issues are within the Locating Practices root cause group, but readers can refer to Table 2 as well as the DIRT Dashboard for a further breakdown.


[1] The Locating Practices root causes that appear twice involve locator error, bad maps, abandoned facilities and tracer wire issues.

Figure 11

Although the vast majority of damages attributed to Locating Practices specify locator error as the primary root cause, additional follow-up has shown locator error is often selected when a more specific root cause is not collected. For example, an excavator may only know that marks are inaccurate, while a locator or facility operator may be better able to determine if it was a mapping, tracer wire, or abandoned facility issue. Those can lead to an inaccurate locate even if the locator followed all proper procedures. Therefore, locator error represents a broader representation of general locate issues.

Figure 11 shows incorrect maps/records at 12%; however, there are likely many other mapping related damages masked by the options to indicate locator error. Mapping issues could be an underlying factor for some damages in the not marked/incomplete category. CGA Next Practices reports, the Locator White Paper and Natural Gas White Paper all identify up-to-date mapping as an effective method to improve locating.

CGA’s 2022 Technology Report featured several case studies highlighting new technologies that capture information in the field and enable the production and sharing of updated, accurate maps. The report also discussed some of the barriers to creating and sharing GIS facility maps.

This is an area where technology is rapidly advancing and has the potential to reduce damages and make the entire damage prevention system more efficient. There are several stakeholder groups, and steps in the damage prevention process, where improved mapping could have an impact, including:

  • Excavation project owners/designers – Project design and Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE)
  • Facility owners and contract locators – Locating and marking
  • 811 centers (one call centers) – Identifying work areas for electronic tickets and electronic white lining

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